I’ve been on various forms of transport on my three month tour of Europe. Of course first by plane, my first A380 experience, as a lover of planes that was quite an experience pity I slept most of the trip to Paris.
Upon arriving I was greeted by a taxi, €80 as soon as I arrived just to get to the apartment. That was the first and only taxi I caught in France. I learnt in Wales not to ride the black and white taxi as they make their own rates and quite often go the long way. Best to get the hotel to book you one from their company it’s cheaper and the drivers are kind, helpful and awfully talkative… Good luck understanding them!
I did ride in an English cab once only because I got off the bus about 10min to early after a late night concert in Manchester. He was kind enough to get me home safely and to the right address, bear in mind I had only arrived that afternoon.
When in Paris you will become very affiliated with the Metro. It’s old and has so much character and a life of its own underground. The tunnels are filled with musicians, beggers and everyone is dressed to impress. Unlike American subways or Sydney’s city rail where people dress for work in business attire only to ruin it wearing sneakers with their nice shoes in their bags. The French wouldn’t dare to do such a horrible fashion foux pas. Each station is usually decorated in various different themes, such as the Arts et Métiers that’s like a submarine with portholes and all.
I also became familiar with the London Underground, it’s much cleaner and somewhat more organised than the French metro. Each station looks the same however and their is definitely less French chic.
Then there is the trains, oh so many trains. I’ve travelled Europe with the help of the SNCF network, the app on my phone has become more useful than my calculator. I’ve caught local trains, the TGV many times even by accident, the above ground trains in London. Virgin trains which have awfully amusing toilets telling you not to flush your boyfriend or old phones down it. Then there was the sleeper train from Amsterdam to Munich, now that was a new experience… Built a masterpiece of a cubby house out of the supplied blankets to block out the light only to have them turned off ten minutes later. I’m very familiar with the RER service in Paris, it’s the best way to get to the Eiffel Tower, airport and Versailles. They look so big after riding the metro all week, Just remember not to loose your ticket and don’t go on them with a hangover.
The cleanest of trains would have to of been the ones here in the Loire Valley. They have curved plush chairs, they are clean, new and not expensive to get around.
The excitement of getting on a train ontime, having found your seat easily with a window seat facing the direction of the train, having a power point, having your luggage fit into the luggage compartment and finding the seat next to you isn’t taken has become what dreams are made of. I’ve been first class, second class and whatever class u manage to find a seat. I’ve got the wrong ticket, a ticket saying to Anges instead of Langeais (both opposite directions), I’ve even got on trains with no ticket at all as the station wasn’t open at 7am when I arrived. The train staff are all elegantly dressed, except the metro drivers in Paris wearing casual attire and the Belgium train staff will make u giggle with their hats that make them look like something out of Charlie and the chocolate factory. One thing they do have in common they are helpful, speak “little” English and are quite understanding of the poor Australian girl that doesn’t always get it right.
Then there is the trams, oh so many trams. The French have it sorted from the brand new ones here in Tours that look slick, they have music playing and are spacious and an enjoyable ride around the city. Then you have the trams in Lyon, some with no driver and seem only really small. However remember to check the direction on the map above the station and it’s all In French, however it’s easy to jump these ones with a kind person letting you follow through behind them.
The trams in Strasbourg sing a different tune every station so even if you don’t understand the French you become familiar with the stations by the sounds associated with them. The Amsterdam trams have also been of help and are easy to work out, however be sure to watch for them when your on your bicycle riding around town they can come out of nowhere.
As for buses, well I quickly discovered first hand the 24 hour experience of Austria to Manchester,UK. Your legroom is significantly smaller and I didn’t attempt to go to the toilet that I say would be quite an experience. I’ve never been so happy to get off a coach in my life I have to say the bus lag took me a few days to recover, I was recovering from a five day music festival as well which didn’t help. I also caught the coach from London back to France, this wasn’t so comfortable and you get some very unhappy Frenchmen that don’t get along with the Africans so much but there is free wifi and no stops all the way through pretty good for €30. Remember to put your bag in the right place as it could be fun digging for it when you get off. I’ve been across the English Channel on a boat by coach and through the tunnel by coach. Also my first ride on a double decker bus in London was great, it’s a slow but easy way to see the city!!
I’ve made some fantastic friends on trains and I’ve learnt a lot about the European multiculturalism and seen my fair share of the prevalence of poverty.
All up the Eurostar, TGV, RER, Metro, Underground, above ground, trams, SCNF network is a great way to discover Europe. Just sit back enjoy the sights, be sure to take a train in Switzerland the scenery will amaze you, the metro will amuse you and the trams may confuse you.
It’s all colored and numbered so even after a few drinks you should be able make it home!!
And finally automobiles… Well I’ve been 300km an hour in a brand new Audi R7 on the freeway, I’ve been in antique Volvos that speedo has stopped going after 400k. I have been driven around in skodas, golf gti’s, bakery delivery vans, Renaults, Citroens, Mercedes and many Peugeots. I’ve gotten in the wrong side of the car many times, learnt how to get gps directions in French and I have even literally gone 100miles per hour for the first time in my life.
So all in all I hope to have made u laugh, given you some insight into traveling Europe on a budget with lots of luggage!!!